On meat, and other animals

Good post over on it’s tilly time on why we eat meat and why we shouldn’t.  I’m a meat eater – but I try to be a thinking one – I hate modern intensive farming methods and try wherever possible to buy from the small local farms around here. I don’t think I’d ever go completely veggie, but I do have a few veggie days each week and keep trying to increase it.

I don’t know that I’d agree that liking meat is necessarily only a psychological habit – I’m a strong believer in the human as animal, with strong genetic memories to times when food was scarce and we hadn’t developed agriculture to easily replace the readily available protein we got from meat. There’s a whole area of taste / tastebuds that essentially relates to “meatiness” or umami.  That being said, we have central heating now so we don’t have to light a fire with twigs in the middle of our living room floor.  Even if we do have something in us to predispose us towards liking meat, or high fat, high calorie foods which once would have been a great find in meagre times but now means size 24 trousers… doesn’t mean we can’t, as educated and intelligent beings learn to do without it and like other things instead. And that is where training and psychology comes in. Kids are classics – if you presume they won’t like something and make a fuss about it, they’ll probably believe you and tell you they’ll never eat brocolli it’s evil.  Interesting article cropped up in my news search touches on it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/mar/13/food-class-social-divide-diet
We have an awful food culture in this country – almost a knee jerk reaction to rationing. I’m hopeful things are changing and some people are making more of an effort to think about what goes in their mouth, and therefore what they can or can’t tolerate in terms of rearing and slaughtering livestock.  My mum has an odd attitude – whenever I’ve said that I think going veggie is a good idea and it would benefit health / environment to do so – she says, ah, but there wouldn’t be any cows or sheep if we didn’t breed them for food.  So, somehow, eating animals is a conservationist act?! I think if a chicken had to chose life in a battery farm or extinction and a possible hen house in the sky it might be inclined to go and greet the great golden egg.  Bizarre.  I think if the current wave of chefs and foodie programme is successful in getting more people to cook again then conditions will improve, because people will be more concerned about quality and taste, and health, and ethics – rather than just cheapness. (I don’t use the word value because it’s a misnomer). Cooking is however probably the main reason I won’t go totally veggie. I like cooking meat too much, the variety, the taste. I don’t find veggie stuff as satisfying to cook and eat. Though I have made and eaten some delicious veggie meals.  But I could probably take it down to a couple of meat meals a week, – which in turn would allow the meat to be a higher quality / standard (and inevitably cost).  Not sure the other half would go that far though.

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3 thoughts on “On meat, and other animals

  1. thanks for your response, my point was that we have a lot of pressures coming from all sides about why we should be eating meat whereas the voice of those arguing the opposite is not as widely heard or supported by the mainstream media. my other point was that i consider the process of using animals for food as exploitative, not just intensive farming methods but as a whole: they are sentinent beings with the ability to think and feel so the idea of rearing them only to kill them is wrong in my mind. they may be tasty or good to cook but children might also be, what is the difference? i’ve become interested in the idea of speciesism recently, and it strikes me as odd that those with left wing/socialist credentials can fight for the rights of their fellow man but not for other creatures that lack a voice. humans have evolved from animals and we can make the reasoned and humane choice not to eat them.

    1. I agree on the image in the media thing – which is likely to get worse, given the bad press that red meat has got over the past few weeks the farming lobby are likely to step up their efforts.

      Otherwise, it’s down to personal ethics. It’s true, children (and other humans) may be tasty and good to cook. (Like pork apparently, long-pig). The not eating of other people is a social convention which rapidly dissolves in times of extreme hardship. Not that I advocate it, but thinking it’s wrong is just as much as social construction as thinking eating animals is acceptable. Some cultures used to (maybe still do) eat the heart and brain of their parents as a sign of respect. Unfortunately eating brain matter of the same species ain’t very good for the whole sanity thing.

      I agree we can make a choice not to eat animals. I just don’t make that choice. Because I don’t find the concept as objectionable as you do. So long as the animals live good lives and are killed humanely, I don’t think including a small amount of meat in our diets is totally wrong. Why, I’m not sure. Because we’re naturally omniverous. And a crocodile wouldn’t have an ethical issue with eating me, or causing me distress while doing so. Maybe we should only eat other carnivores, screw with the food chain. I’d prefer to eat older animals, prefer to eat animals which had died though other causes (so long as they were safe to eat). If someone had a small holding and reared animals like pets – is it totally wrong to kill and eat older animals to make way for younger ones? Or do you neuter them all and just wait for them to die. Which is what we do with cats and dogs, because we, in this country find it wrong to eat them. And yet we don’t always extend the same sympathies to other things we find cute and fluffy like rabbits and lambs. Not saying it makes sense, or is right. Just observing.

      Morals and Ethics are strange things. I’m one of those people the Pope isn’t keen on, very much a relativist. Don’t believe in absolute right and wrong. We’re animals, and every nicety we’ve created for ourselves in the course of civilisation is just the prevailing idea of what is better than something else. I don’t doubt that eating meat will eventually seem as completely abhorrent to the majority as slavery, cannibalism, child prostitution. There are still people who think these things are ok in the world. It’s just a question of who’s got the upper hand.

  2. you’re right, with morals and ethics it is an individual thing and we need to respect divergence of opinion. it is an emotive argument and i try not to let my feelings on the issue get in the way of the rational arguments. i’m not going to try and persuade you to become vegetarian because you have obviously given it some thought in the past. i originally stated that i want to reach out to those who haven’t been given the opportunity to consider the opposing views and let them mull it over, i hope i can do that without getting preachy or hysterical on the matter! i also understand some people have other priorities other than animals rights but i see a definite link between these and human rights. as gandhi said: the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

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